It took years of campaigns and collective encroachments For the government to put access to green spaces in England at the top of its agenda, as it did today in the Environment Improvement Scheme.
During the pandemic, the importance of nature to our physical and mental well-being has become even more apparent – as has unequal access, with the poorest in society Less access to green spaces.
Now, the government has made the issue a key plank of its five-year plan to improve biodiversity and the environment, which also includes ambitious pledges including restoring 500,000 hectares of wildlife habitat, including 25 new or expanded national nature reserves and a plan on sanitation. Later in the year, including improvements to the sanitation work.
One of the key pledges is for everyone to be within 15 minutes’ walk of a green space or water: for some of England’s most marginalized communities, this would be a huge step forward. Access to nature is an essential part of protecting it, as Jim McMahon of the Labor Party says he told the Guardian Last week: “If people have no interest in their environment, they won’t fight to protect it.”
Access to green spaces has become a hot political topic – with McMahon saying in the same interview that Labor will pass the right to roam, while the Liberal Democrats are proposing a bill that would allow wild camping in national parks.
But what about the rest of the government’s aspirations? It appears to hinge on uptake from the farming community, as the agricultural sector is expected to make most of these environmental improvements. This is not surprising since most of our lands in this country are cultivated, but it may cause some grumbling in a sector that has already been hit Britain’s exit deals from the European UnionAnd Climate collapse And Unfair supply chain.
Some of the pledges related to agriculture include a commitment that 65% to 80% of landowners and farmers will adopt nature-friendly farming practices on at least 10 to 15% of their land by 2030. The government also aims for farmers to create or restore 30,000 miles of bush per year by 2037 and 45,000 miles of hedge fencing annually by 2050. Water targets also include farmers, aiming to restore 400 miles of the river through the first round of landscape restoration projects, involving farmers and other land managers under new post-Brexit payment schemes European.
These policies will be supported by the new agricultural payments scheme, the details of which were announced last week. Despite simplifying it, and adding more ways to get government money to protect nature, some farmers believe the costs of changing the way they farm may outweigh what they are paid under the scheme, which is set to replace the EU’s system of payments based on area. It remains to be seen if the new system will be successful.
While the government was reluctant to suggest the use of Less than England’s cattle-breeding landDespite the recommendations of food czar Henry Dimbleby, it seems ministers may hold the meat and dairy industry to account pollution.
On Tuesday, Environment Secretary Therese Coffey will reveal that she is considering expansion environmental permitting conditions to intensive dairy farms and beef farms, which means making them responsible for pollution in the same way as industrial plants and mining waste operations.
Some farmers welcomed the ambition for greater regulation. Martin Lines, Chair of the Nature Friendly Agriculture Network, said: “I welcome the ambitious roadmap and recognize that farmers need to play their part in introducing more nature friendly practices across all farmed landscapes. It will be essential for the government to get the right balance of use of public and private funds to be able to “Starting to provide solutions to stop the decline of nature. This has to be along with enforcing regulations. We can then all start providing solutions to not only stop the decline of nature but start to see it recover.” It is not likely to be a file The whole sector will share his point of view.
The plan also includes a multi-million pound Species Survival Fund to protect our rarest species – from hedgehogs to red squirrels, but those who care about them rewind You’ll notice that there is no mention of reintroducing locally extinct species. Boris Johnson’s government has promised to “rebuild the beaver”, releasing lemmings to limit the effects of floods and droughts, but perhaps the Sunak administration does not share this ambition.
Overall, the goals look promising. But the Conservative government has been good at setting environmental targets for itself, As seen on Cop26. It is not a good idea to take action against them and this may end up being another example. Perhaps worryingly, much of the strategy hinges on the success of the new agricultural payments system. Our agricultural sector is now more important than ever in restoring biodiversity loss – and saving the planet.